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Big Ten players present conference, NCAA with list of demands concerning safety from coronavirus

A coalition of over 1,000 football student-athletes from the Big Ten on Wednesday released a list of demands to the conference and the NCAA, calling for a “comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and well-being of players leading up to and during the upcoming fall season.”

The statement, issued through The Players’ Tribune, comes just hours after the Big Ten released its new 10-game, conference-only football schedule beginning in a month.

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“While we appreciate the Big Ten’s recently announced plan for the upcoming season, we believe that the conference’s proposal falls short in certain areas,” the statement said. “Given that the players are the primary stakeholders in the business of college sports, we believe any course of action moving forward needs to include player input. We are deeply disappointed with the lack of leadership demonstrated by the NCAA with respect to player safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Among the demands includes a third-party, approved by the players, to administer COVID-19 testing and enforce all COVID-19 health and safety procedures. The statement also calls for tri-weekly testing “of everyone who comes into contact with college athletes, including coaches, trainers, medical staff, nutrition staff, referees, media, etc,” along with testing on the day of competition.

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As part of the medical protocols released by the Big Ten on Wednesday, football student-athletes will be tested twice a week.

The demands also ask for “whistleblower protections for athletics personnel and college athletes reporting a suspected violation,” as well as the elimination of COVID-19 liability waivers. For permission to participate in summer workouts, several programs required student-athletes sign a liability waiver, protecting the program if they were to contract COVID-19.

Coverage for out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19 and increased protections for eligibility and scholarships is also requested.

Minutes after the announcement from the group of Big Ten players, the NCAA released directives for schools and conferences to protect student-athletes, many of which address player demands.

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Among the instructions, the NCAA will institute a phone number and email to allow the reporting of violations and forbids programs from requiring the signing of a COVID-19 liability waiver to participate in practices and games.

Schools must also honor athletes’ scholarships if they choose to opt-out of the season, as well as cover COVID-19 related medical expenses.

The announcement from the group of Big Ten players comes just days after a coalition of Pac-12 players released a similar statement. Demands from the Big Ten players aren’t as wide-ranging as those from players in the Pac-12, who are also demanding revenue split with players and initiatives to combat racial injustice.

Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman on Tuesday became the first high-profile Big Ten football player to opt-out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns, announcing that he would instead prepare for the 2021 NFL draft.

Maryland is scheduled to begin its season Sept. 5 at Iowa. Preseason practice starts Friday.

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